Yorkshire Ambulance Service facing £4m fine over missed response times

Ambulances ready for action
Ambulances ready for action

Yorkshire Ambulance Service is facing fines of almost £4m for not reaching seriously-ill patients quickly enough.

The service is being penalised for failing to hit tough Government targets to get to 75 per cent of patients thought to be in a life-threatening condition within eight minutes.

The trust, which is in the process of making £10m cuts this year, is forecasting it will face a financial penalty in the region of £3.8m by the end of the current financial year.

If imposed, it will mean the ambulance service will go over-budget by almost £1m in the current year.

Clinical commissioning groups across the county are responsible for levying the fines.

Rod Barnes, interim chief executive of the ambulance trust, said ‘disappointing’ response times in the first six months of the year meant an action plan to tackle issues has been introduced, with overtime incentives introduced for staff as part of the attempts to improve standards.

His recent report said five faults with the despatch system in October, along with ‘significant handover delays’ at Hull Royal Infirmary had contributed to recent poor performance. It also said a four-hour walkout by staff as part of a national pay dispute on October 13, followed by a four-day overtime ban, also ‘detrimentally affected’ response times.

The issue was discussed by Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group at its board meeting yesterday afternoon, with it warning it is ‘unlikely’ last month’s targets had been met.

It said: “The pledges for RED 1 or RED 2 calls resulting in an emergency response arriving within eight minutes have again not been met in October and are also unlikely to be met in November. Commissioners are applying the full range of contractual sanctions to Yorkshire Ambulance Service where performance is below contractual requirements.”

A spokesman for the ambulance service said: “Overall demand for emergency ambulances is increasing year-on-year and this is reflected across the whole country.

“In Yorkshire and the Humber demand for the most seriously ill and injured patients in the first six months of the year was up by 11.5 per cent which equates to nearly 15,000 more ‘Red’ incidents in the year-to-date.

“The October 2014 figures for ‘Red’ response times have shown improvement with 73.83 per cent of incidents responded to within the eight-minute target.

“Whilst we are working hard to make further improvements to our response times, it is important to remember that they are not the only measure of the care we provide to patients and our focus remains on providing safe and high-quality services.

“In the last year we have seen a 43 per cent improvement in survival to discharge in patients who have collapsed due to cardiac causes. In patient terms, 124 patients have walked out of hospitals following a cardiac arrest due to the high standard of care provided by our staff.”